Dear Rabbi, I haven’t read any of your books (I have better things to do), but from your blogs I can see you are a heretic and a fool. I find it offensive that you call yourself a rabbi and that you teach Jews, of which I am one. So, if you have the guts, here are some questions I’d like to ask the “rabbi” to see if you dare answer them. This is my Rosh HaShanah gift to you. I hope you return the favor by stop calling yourself a rabbi and admit what you are: a self-hating Jew.
1. If you don’t believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who chose the Jews to be His special people, liberated us from Egypt, gave us Torah (God’s only revelation; the New Testament and Koran are lies), and gave us Israel—all of Israel, by whose authority do you call yourself a Jew, let alone a rabbi?
Great question, and you are right on every count: I don’t believe in any of this. As for authority: I have none, nor do I want any. Submitting oneself to an authority is an act of self-blinding and an abdication of one’s capacity to think for oneself. I never claim any authority, nor desire any followers. I don’t want to tell you what to believe or do, and I am wary of anyone who does.
As for rabbinic authority, this is a fiction: rabbis have no authority. This is why Jews hop from rabbi to rabbi until they find one who agrees with them: authority lies with the person willing to call someone an authority.
2. If you don’t believe God wrote the Torah and gave it to the Jews, why bother with Torah at all?
The contents of a book matter more to me than its authorship, and there is much in Torah that I find insightful and true. This is especially true of the Wisdom Books: Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. I supplement these with the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, the rabbinic Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Sages) the Gospel of Thomas, and selections from the Hebrew Prophets, all of which were written by Jews. And like most rabbis I cherry-pick the parts of these texts that I like and ignore the rest.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that what I find “insightful and true” in the Bible are those teachings that agree with me, or which I can interpret in ways that agree with me. I am not interested in subsuming my positions to that of Torah, but of bending Torah to my positions. I humbly suggest that every rabbi and Bible commentator does this, though most pretend otherwise.
3. If you don’t believe in God, why pray?
I never said I don’t believe in God. I do. I just don’t believe in the anthropomorphic God of Abraham and Company. If I can improve on your question a bit, I would ask why, if I don’t believe in intercessory prayer (prayer that can change God’s mind) why do I pray? For me prayer is a way to acknowledge the wonder of life and the trials of living. I find value in communal prayer because I see such prayer as an affirmation of the community’s values. The question I ask of liturgy is this: What are the values being celebrated? If they are my values I participate in the communal liturgy, if they are not my values, I don’t participate and seek out a different community. Again, as with Torah, I remain the final arbiter of what is valuable and true.
4. Your theology is so anti–Judaism that just teaching it to Jews is a shandeh, a scandal. You are leading Jews astray, and that is an evil thing. How to you stand to look at yourself?
I think you can find historical precedent for my teaching among Jewish philosophers, so I’m not in anyway “anti–Judaism,” but I am certainly outside the mainstream. As for leading Jews astray, I am always careful to say that what I teach is my opinion, and, as I said a moment ago, I never claim to be an authority. All I do is offer alternative ways to think about God, Torah, and Israel, something rabbis have been doing for over 2000 years.
5. Last question: What would you do if real rabbis put you under herem, (excommunication); something I am trying to make happen by the way?
What would I do? I’d tweet it to the world. I’d write about it and wear it as a badge of honor. I’d celebrate being in the company of my rebbe, Baruch Spinoza. I’d dance for joy that there are rabbis who take me seriously enough to publically and formally condemn me. Most Jews simply ignore me, so please do this! I could use the publicity!